Four-year-old’s have play dates through closed windows, sliding their toy cars in unison on either side of the glass. A high school student worries about his mother going to work in a food-packing warehouse, at risk for contracting COVID-19. Another teen says “there is nothing to look forward to,” as he tries to avoid sliding into depression. Worried parents are calling school district hotlines seeking help for their troubled children.
Experts say that when kids return to campuses, the demand for mental health care will be greater than the available services, as the effects of the coronavirus disruptions cut across societal strata, affecting children throughout California. But schools, the safe havens that provide the only access many children have to mental health care, are ill-prepared to support the magnitude of expected need.
“We’re only going through the first wave of the disaster,” said Dr. Curley Bonds, chief medical officer for the L.A. County Department of Mental Health. “This is the equivalent of people waiting on rooftops to be saved after Hurricane Katrina.”
Los Angeles schools chief Austin Beutner, who leads the nation’s second-largest school district, acknowledged the shortfall.